I wrote this on the 14th but didn´t have a chance to post it, so here it is:
Haven`t written for a while, so here is an update on what I`ve been doing.
After I got back from Antarctica, I stayed one more night with the
Couchsurfer in Ushuaia. He`s was extremely generous and a great cook, so it
was good to stay there another night. The day after, I took a 12 hour bus
ride to Puerto Natales, which is popular because it is close to the Torres
Del Paine national park.
On the bus ride there, I met a German girl who was also traveling alone, so
we ended up deciding to go hiking and camping together. At first, we wanted
to stay in the hostels in the park along the way, but they were all booked.
So we had to rent camping gear, which turned out to be much better (and
more difficult) than the other option.
I stayed with a Couchsurfer in Puerto Natales as well. It was definitely
interesting. It was a family living there, but host absolutely everyone. I
arrived there at 10pm and was surprised to see 3 other couchsurfers there
already, 2 from Spain and 1 from Russia. I was even more surprised, and
pleased, when the mother brought out a plate of pasta for me. The room I
stayed in was just like a hostel, 2 bunk beds in a small area.
When I say they host everyone, really it is everyone. When I got back from
hiking, I stayed with them another night. That night, we were 18
couchsurfers staying there ranging from the US, Russia, France, Spain,
Italy, Hungary, and others. Apparantly, they have hosted over 1,000 people
since they joined. Absolutely crazy.
So, the German girl and I got to the park, and we started off walking after
a 2 and a half hour bus ride to the entrance of the park. Already, the
scenery was incredible. Jagged mountains were in the distance where we were
walking to, and the wind blowing 40 miles and hour made it even more
difficult while carrying a bag full with a tent, sleeping back, clothes,
We hiked for about 7 hour this day before getting to our campsite, up
through a valley and just below the headline, the Torres del Paine (Towers
of Pain). The campsite was free, and we cooked up our dinner of packaged
chicken and rice, drank a beer (leave it to the Germans to want to carry
beer 6 miles walking), and then went to bed. The next morning, we made the
1 hour hike up to the Torres Del Paine. It`s pretty much 3 big, jagged,
towers of land, and below it is a glacier and a lake.
The glacier feeds right into the lake below, and since I just swam in
Antarctica, I thought I would give it a try. Much, much easier than
Antarctica. The sun was shining making the outside temperature much warmer,
and the water just wasn`t as cold (although it was directly from the
glacier above). After Antarctica, I feel like I can swim anywhere. And I
will keep trying until it proves me wrong!
So after swimming, we headed back down, packed the tent, and then continued on through more beautiful scenery. The weather was perfect as well with sun and about 70 degrees. On our way, we had to cross many cricks and small rivers. A few of them were almost 6 inches deep, so we had to walk on the rocks to not get our shoes wet. After a while, I decided it was worth it to just walk through the water in shoes since it`s safer (and I got tired of taking off my shoes). At one point, we got a river coming down from the glacier which was way too fast and deep to cross. Here, there was someone working helping people across. If there was something like this in the US, it would be closed for sure. It was difficult getting across and probably wouldn`t have been possible without the worker. The distance between the rocks, and with large bags made it tough. If you fall, you`d be going down some shallow rapids. But we made it across with no problems along with everyone else that I saw.
After 11 total hours of walking, we made it to our campground which was near a hostal and restaurant called Los Cuernos. We were absolutely exhausted when we got there, so we just ate, took much needed showers, and slept. We planned to get up at 6am the next day, but we overslept by 3 hours!
We were going to try to go to the French Valley, but we ended up not having the time on the 3rd day (or the energy). I forgot to mention that this route, which is the most popular, is called the ´W´ since it goes in a W formation. It`s usually 4 days, but we cut off a day because the part on the furthest west is completely burnt up from a forrest fire from only weeks before. We walked by some of it on our 3rd day, and it wasn`t pretty. Black trees, black ground, and almost nothing else. Apparantly it started when a guy from Israel tried to burn his toilet paper, and it got out of control. I heard he`s in prison now because he destroyed a good part of the park.
So after another 7 hours on Day 3, we got to our final destination, jumped on the catamaran, and then headed back to Puerto Natales.It was a great 3 days of hiking, and it makes me want to do much more. Luckily these next stops including hiking as well.
The day after, I took a 6 hour bus to El Calafate in Argentina. El Calafate is known for it`s expanding glacier, but I decided not to go since I saw many in Antarctica. Saves me $50 or so.
But on the first night there in El Calafate, there was a rodeo going on for the town anniversary. We ended up going there for a few hours, pretty interesting. Pretty much they bring in wild horses, have guys get on, and wait to see how long they can stay on before getting thrown off. I had never heard of this before, only with bulls. Pretty slow overall since it takes a while to get on the horse (even after they have it connected with a rope that is tied to a pole), but interesting to see. I also got some good pictures.
The next day, I just took it easy since I was still exhausted from the hiking and needed a day. At night, I was invited by 12 or so Chileans to their barbeque outside the hostel. Was pretty funny to be 12 Chileans and me in Argentina. Barbeques are really typical in Chile and Argentina. Steaks, sausages, chicken, rice, and tomatoes. Unfortunately, they speak so fast that I couldn`t understand much when they were talking to each other, but still a good time.
This morning, I took a 3 hour bus ride to El Chalten, which is known for being one of the hiking capitals of South America. Definitely a beautiful place with towering mountains in the distance. I did a short 1 hour hike today to get a good view of the area. The next 3 days, I will be doing day hikes. Some are around 4 hours each way, and some are 3 hours. This is one of the most popular places in Patagonia, so I need to take advantage.
Afterwards, I will be catching a 3am bus on Saturday morning and will be in that said bus for the next 25 hours, until Bariloche.
Being in this area in Patagonia has changed my traveling. Rather than going out and meeting people, I am doing much more hiking, which is what should be done in this area. Overall, I`ve enjoyed it and am looking forward to these next few hikes.
Happy Valentine`s Day!